Most of us believe that our genes determine everything from the levels of testosterone we are born with to how long we will live. But the new science of epigenetics shows that we can take back control of our lives and actually change the way our genes work. That’s good news for everyone, but particularly for men and their families.
According to Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier, Clinical Professor of Medicine, UCSF School of Medicine, and author of the book Change Your Genes, Change Your Life, “Biology is no longer destiny. Our DNA doesn’t rigidly determine our health and disease prospects, as the previous generation of geneticists believed. According to the new science of epigenetics, our genes are shaped by what we think and what we do.”
I’ve been working with men and their families for fifty years now and have found that many men are locked into old patterns of irritability, anger, anxiety, and depression and are unable to break free. Many women are impacted by a man’s behavior but don’t know how to help.
In my book, 12 Rules for Good Men, coming out in November, I offer the most up-to-date information available on how to help men and the families who love them. After reading the book, Dr. Pelletier said, “Jed’s book is unique in offering an in-depth understanding of why men are the way they are and do the things they do. Based on his fifty years of experience working with men and their families, he gives all of us the tools for living fully, loving deeply, and making a positive difference in our lives.”
I have known about Dr. Pelletier’s groundbreaking work in the field since the 1970s when his book, Mind as Healer, Mind as Slayer was first published and ushered in the field of mind/body medicine. There have been natural connections between his work and mine ever since that are reflected in our new books.
In Chapter 5 of Change Your Genes, Change Your Life, he discusses “Mind Matters” and how we can turn off our genetic vulnerabilities by reducing stress. He correctly recognizes that our early-life traumas can have a lasting impact on our adult health. “Research shows that undue strain or abuse experienced during a child’s development affects that young person’s epigenome far into adulthood, altering their patterns of stress response and often leaving them with lifelong physical vulnerabilities or emotional disabilities that require treatment.”
My own research recognizes that men tend to be forward-looking and action-oriented and often don’t recognize the impact of our early life’s traumas and as result, we are more vulnerable to everything from heart-disease and alcoholism to cancer and suicide.
In Rule #9 from the book, I described my own denial in addressing childhood wounds. It never occurred to me that my lifelong anger and depression and later my two broken marriages had anything to do with my past. All that changed in 1998 when I reached out to a colleague, Dr. Charles Whitfield, because I couldn’t seem to heal my depression in spite of the fact that I was receiving good therapy and was taking medications. He told me that the missing piece in my healing might be addressing childhood trauma. I learned about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and found they were very common, including experiencing divorce or parents who were depressed or alcoholic.
I found I had 4 ACEs, which is great if you’re playing poker. However, in the game of life four ACEs are very risky. The study found the following increased risk factors for those who had 4 or more ACES compared to those who had none:
- A 4- to 12-fold increase in health risks for alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, and suicide attempts.
- A 2- to 4-fold increase in smoking, poor self-rated health, having more than fifty sexual intercourse partners, and sexually transmitted disease.
- A 1.4 to 1.6-fold increase in physical inactivity and severe obesity.
The good news is that we are not the victims of our genes and we’re not the victims of our early-life experiences. Neither do we have to settle for healthcare that is impersonal and generic. In Chapter 6 of Change Your Life, Change Your Genes, Dr. Pelletier says, “Our challenge today is to jumpstart a transformation of healthcare for medicine designed for a ‘standard’ human to one that treats each individual as special.”
There’s emerging research in gender-specific medicine. Marianne J. Legato M.D, Director of the Foundation for Gender-Specific Medicine says, “Everywhere we look, the two sexes are startlingly and unexpectedly different not only in their internal function but in the way they experience illness.” For the first time, we can have healthcare designed specifically for the unique needs of males and females.
I guide men, and the families who love them, through the following 12 practice, or rules, that help men to live fully, love deeply, and make a positive difference in the world:
- Rule #1: Join a Men’s Group.
- Rule #2: Break Free From the Man Box.
- Rule #3: Accept the Gift of Maleness.
- Rule #4: Embrace Your Billion Year History of Maleness.
- Rule #5: Recognize Your Anger and Fear Toward Women.
- Rule #6: Learn The Secrets of Real, Lasting Love.
- Rule #7: Undergo Meaningful Rites of Passage from Youth to Adulthood and from Adulthood to Super Adulthood.
- Rule #8: Celebrate Your True Warrior Spirit and Learn Why Males Duel and Females Duet.
- Rule #9: Understand and Heal Your Adverse Childhood Experiences and Male Attachment Disorders.
- Rule #10: Heal Your Father Wound and Become the Father You Were Meant to Be.
- Rule #11: Treat the Irritable Male Syndrome and Male-Type Depression.
- Rule #12: Find Your Mission in Life and Do Your Part to Save Humanity.
In the words of Bob Dylan, truly, the times they are a changing. We now have opportunities never before available. To learn more, you can contact Dr. Pelletier at https://drpelletier.com/ and you can email me. We look forward to connecting with you.
Originally published on Men Alive
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